National September 11 Memorial
New York City, NY

The chaos of the morning rush in New York City was not out of the ordinary Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. Business people dashed into subway cars, taxi drivers weaved in and out of traffic, and tourists snapped pictures in Times Square. The bright and sunny morning, however, quickly turned dark when, at 8:46AM, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Soon after, United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the Center’s South Tower. These events were two of four hijacked planes that day, resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

The National September 11 Memorial serves to honor the 2,977 people killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, including those who perished in New York City, Shanksville, the Pentagon, and the six people who died in the bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993. Level with the city streets, the Memorial aims to integrate itself with the city, providing easy access for patrons to stroll off the city streets and into the Memorial plaza.
In 2003, a jury selected the design of architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker called “Reflecting Absence” out of a pool of 5,201 entries stemming from 63 nations. In a joint statement, they remarked, “This memorial proposes a space that resonates with the feelings of loss and absence that were generated by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the taking of thousands of lives on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.”

Likely the first thing the visitor will notice upon entering the plaza is the more than 400 Swamp White Oak trees planted throughout the Memorial. Chosen for their beautiful changing colors and durability, these trees were largely harvested from a 500-mile radius of the World Trade Center, with a few imported from locations near the Pentagon and Shanksville. The selection committee for the design of the Memorial remarked, “[The trees] remember life with living forms, and serve as living representations of the destruction and renewal of life in their own annual cycles.”

The plaza area is also lauded as an excellent example of green infrastructure due to the fact that it is a green roof (it is located above the Memorial Museum and a train station) and has a remarkable rainwater collection system. According to the Memorial website, the harvested water will sustain the majority of the daily and monthly irrigation needs of the Memorial. Additionally, Peter Walker and Partners designed a suspension system for the general plaza area. This allows for water to drain into the area below while also creating a large area of space for the roots of the nearly 400 trees to expand. Lastly, the Memorial is pursuing U.S. Green Building Council’s L.E.E.D certification while also meeting the requirements of New York State Executive Order 111 and WTC Sustainable Design Guidelines, both of which promote environmentally-friendly practices.
The Survivor Tree, located in the plaza area, stands out as a symbol of endurance and hope. Surviving the destruction of September 11, the Callery Pear Tree was removed and revitalized by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation before being returned its location in 2010.

The centerpieces of the Memorial are the two square reflecting pools with cascading waterfalls dropping into an empty void, intended to create a, “sense that what is beyond this
curtain of water…is inaccessible,” according to the architect Arad. Each pool covers nearly an acre and stands in the footsteps of the original Tower it represents. The names of those who have fallen are etched (in no particular order) onto large bronze plates, which line the perimeter of each pool. The etching of the names allows for visitors to complete rubbings of the name while also serving as a template for the nightly illumination of each name.

Walking tours are provided by 9/11 survivors, recovery workers, family members of the deceased, and lower Manhattan residents. Additionally, Google Street View provides excellent snapshots of the Memorial, allowing online visitors to be able to “walk” around the reflecting pools and read the names of the victims. A “Hero Tour” Google Hangout session was held on Memorial Day of 2013 to provide veterans, victims’ family members and friends, those in active duty, and others a virtual tour of the Memorial, provided by Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial. This is now available for public viewing on YouTube. The Memorial is open daily from 7:30AM to 9PM and is free to the public.

The National September 11 Memorial serves as a reminder to the Nation as a whole that we may never forget this tragedy and the devastation that ensued on that bright Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001.

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